They’re friends first, tennis players second and competitors third.
For the last four years Lois Vincent, Jann Ward, Anita Holle and Lesa Cleaveland have played tennis each and every Saturday morning in LaGrange. It is an encounter of the tennis kind, and there is no other place that these four ladies would rather be than on the court at the Ann & Doc McCluskey Tennis Center.
It’s a tradition that this tennis foursome doesn’t want to break. All of these ladies are in their 60’s, and they all still have some pep in their step and some power behind their tennis shots.
“This is a social thing. We’re good friends, and you need to be at least a little athletic,” said Holle, the former LaGrange High cheerleader.
All four of these ladies are athletes, and they do take their doubles matches serious. They usually play three sets on any given Saturday. Ward and Vincent won the middle set, 7-5 over Cleaveland and Holle last weekend.
“This is therapy. We can play one hour or three hours. We love playing, and we know each others games. We never give up on a shot,” said Vincent.
The ladies do needle each other on the tennis court. That is a part of their game and their close relationship. They wouldn’t want to miss a Saturday for anything. The ladies look forward to this from the bottom of their hearts to the tennis net.
As for the team of Vincent and Ward, Cleaveland said this, “They have different types of spin. They have a lot of stuff on the ball. Sometimes they make us look foolish.”
But these four tenni s players and friends do change tennis partners from time to time. It is not the same twosome all the time.
According to Ward, “I hit the ball hard. This is challenging, great tennis, and we play at the best facility (in West Georgia).”
Cleaveland has won her share of Saturday matches. And she has been a tennis player since almost the time that she could walk. Cleaveland was not born with a tennis racket in her hand, however.
“I love playing. It’s fun, and I play to win. I come out here, and I relax. But some days you can’t buy a shot,” said Cleaveland, who played singles and doubles for LaGrange High in the 1970’s.
Still, all in all, these four ladies keep showing up every Saturday morning with winning on their minds. They like the way the tennis ball bounces on most days. They can’t stand losing, whether on Saturday or any other day.
“I got beat by an 83-yearold woman once, and I did lose some sleep over that,” said Ward, who coached high school tennis for 18 years in Alabama.
Chris Fernsler Sports Writer